Monday, October 20, 2014
Once Upon A Time…….You could go to a theatre regularly and see a magician or several magicians perform LIVE. That was called the Golden Age of Magic and the Golden Age of Vaudeville. Then along came Movies and then Television and all that stopped. The field shrunk down to only a few big time traveling illusion shows, Blackstone Sr. was the main one. But even Blackstone had difficulty as time went on.
Then, there was a time when there were none. At least, none of the big traveling shows. Until, Doug Henning came along, followed by David Copperfield and around that same time Harry Blackstone Jr.. Each one of them had great runs. Two of those great artists died before their time, Henning and Blackstone Jr.. After David Copperfield stopped touring, that seemed to be it. There were no big traveling magic shows.
All that has changed, again. For the past few years a little touring show has been moving across the country called Masters of Illusion. This was followed by a summer TV Series on the CW Network, also called Masters of Illusion, this past summer (2014). The TV show featured different magicians each week demonstrating their various talents. The LIVE show has a revolving cast and I assume all of them have appeared on the TV show at some point.
I saw the show at the Warner Theatre in Washington D.C. this past week. I am happy to say there was a very big crowd. I am unhappy to say, there should have been a bigger crowd, because it seemed one segment of society was missing from the audience, the magic community. I think I spotted two other magicians in the audience and that was all. There could have been more, but I remember the days when the magicians would flood out to see a show like this. WE as the magic community have a responsibility to support our fellow artists. (ok, I’m off my soapbox now)
I'm not 100% on this order, but I think Titou from France was up next. Here is a very likeable and funny performer who had some great one-liners in his set. He did the first audience participation routine and it was very well received. Look forward to seeing more from this fellow in the future.
Greg Gleason was up next and his first set started with a very unusual Broom Suspension Illusion using a chair and a feather boa. I can't recall seeing anything like this before and really liked it. His assistant was superb and has a million dollar smile. Greg did several routines which I won't reveal because I don't want to spoil the surefire surprises for anyone who has yet to see the show.
Farrell Dillon was up doing his first set of manipulation. I like Farrell, I think he is extremely clever and very talented. He is basically doing Chavez style manipulations but he is doing them with very funny patter. He has taken a tired old 'seen it a million times' type of magic act and made it fresh and fun.
Rick Thomas was also on hand. Rick is well known for being one of the big Tiger/Animal acts in magic. But on this show, no animals at all. Rather it was Rick and minimal props and a lot of personality. His first routine was a Chair Suspension that looked like a Zany Blaney Ladder Levitation. He did the routine with a boy from the audience and just brought the house down. Great stuff.
There was a short intermission allowing folks to get something to drink or buy something from the Masters of Illusion Traveling Store. It looked like they did quite well with back of the room sales, which is great for any show.
I totally enjoyed the first half of the show. But let me say, the second half of the show was about as good as it gets in the world of magic. The energy level went up and up after each act. The audience, who had been very receptive to the show from the start, was now moving towards a fevers pitch. Each act was hitting a home run. I'm not revealing any of the routines from the second half except for one.
Rick Thomas presented a mini illusion called Liquid Glass. It's a routine created by Jim Steinmeyer and based on an effect of Peter Warlocks. Basically, it's a needle through glass trick done on a larger scale. I have seen it done before. I ALMOST bought one a couple times. Well, when Rick Thomas and his assistant Tara came out, they killed with this prop. In fact, it was so strong, so entertaining, so dumbfounding that all I could think was, "Rick Thomas needs to do a lecture on THIS!" His presentation was brilliant. It had everything you could ask for, it was visually interesting, it was fun to watch, it was energetic, it was funny, it was dramatic, it had movement, class, style and importantly, it was easy to follow, it was crazy good. It's a good trick to begin with, but he brought it to the level of fantastic.
The Liquid Glass routine was not the closer to the show, there was much more to come following that routine, but it was such a stand out piece to me, I wanted to make a special notation of it. From an audience stand point, it’s hard to say what their favorite routine might have been. Maybe the Wakeling Sawing where Rick Thomas allowed 20 people to join him onstage. Perhaps it was the breathtaking closer to the show, or the hilarious Straight Jacket Escape by Farrell Dillon. It’s just hard to say.
Here is what I can tell you about the show. I watched the spectators, the lay people, from the moment they came in the door. I was really quite surprised at the number of couples that attended, what a great sign. There were children and families who came, but not as many as I would have thought (it was a school night, so that might play into it). The age range was all over the board, people from their 20s right up to Seniors. This was a very ethnically diverse audience. I’d say it was equally split between males and females. The one thing they all had in common, they were having a great time! They got to see top notch magic, excellent comedy, and some really beautiful moments of illusion.
This production is Gay Blackstone's baby. I know there are other people involved, but Gay brings decades of experience to this production and it can be seen in every aspect of the show. She deserves the credit for finding the great talent and structuring a show that allows each act to shine equally. I’m sure if you looked closely you would see her fingerprints on almost every aspect of the production. This is a show to be proud of for sure.
I want to share a bit of personal history. I saw my first professional magic show as a kid at the Warner Theatre many years before. I sat with my parents and brother in the third row from the stage. I was seeing Harry Blackstone Jr. for the first time. He toured with a big production, a live orchestra, and a big cast. I remember vividly when he walked out on stage and made that birdcage vanish. I remember him stepping backstage to get a second cage and repeating the trick, this time with audience members touching the sides of the cage. I remember later in the show the Floating Light bulb, which floated down into the audience only a few feet from where we were sitting. I remember a Patriotic Drum routine where hundreds of flags were produced out of it and eventually a person. I remember the Flower Garden routine. Hey, it was my first real live magic show and I can remember almost all of it.
Seeing the Masters of Illusion Show at the Warner was a continuation of this incredible Blackstone tradition. For the audience, it was an evening of wonder and laughter and the very best kind of family friendly entertainment!
PLEASE Be sure to support this show if it comes to your area. Tell your friends, your family, your co-workers about the show and where to get tickets. Trust me, they’ll be happy you did!
By the way, be sure to check out the October 2014 Issue of Genii Magazine with the Masters of Illusion LIVE TV Show on the cover!
Friday, September 19, 2014
In the October 2014 issue of Genii, John's column is sub-titled "Houdini's Blooming Rose Bush and Flower Cone. The photo at the top of the page is the 'OTHER' Houdini Blooming Rosebush, which is in Ken Klosterman's collection. But trust me, that photo above is nothing compared to the photos in the magazine. In the article you'll see an exposed view of the inner workings of this magnificent piece of magical apparatus. And just as soon as you think you've seen it all, then comes the Flower Cone.
The Houdini Flower Cone was an illusion used in his final tour and can be seen in HOUDINI His Legend and His Magic by Doug Henning and Charles Reynolds on page 122. But in the book you only see a black and white image which is not exactly high resolution. In the Genii issue you'll see the actual cone and the flowers in full color!!! It's breathtaking and you must check it out, NOW!!!!!
Also, be sure to check out the great article on the Masters of Illusion Show! This is a touring show as well as a TV show. Every magician should be watching and or attending this production!
|The Oct 2014 Issue of Genii Magazine|
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Just a few months ago the historic auction of Le Grand David Magic items was held at their theatre in Beverly Mass. Among the items for sale was the Broom Suspension Bronze created in 1984 by David F. Bull, father of David Bull who portrayed the character Le Grand David in the show. The bronze depicts an actual scene from the show of Marco the Magi levitating David on a broom surrounded by other cast members.
This bronze sold at auction for $8,000.00. Well now the bronze is back on the auction block and the price has gone up, a lot. The asking price is $75,000.00 or best offer. I can tell you in my opinion the $8,000 was pretty low so the person who purchased it got a bargain. As for the $75,000 price, that is up to the person who wants it. This piece is much more than a magic collectable, this is real art and real art carries these type of prices.
There are actually three of these, but only one is being offered for sale. Of the two remaining, one is in the Ray Goulet Magic Museum and the other is in the American Museum of Magic in Marshall Michigan.
The link to the ebay auction is here http://www.ebay.com/itm/Monumental-Magic-Bronze-Iconic-Le-Grand-David-Rare-Subject-Shows-Action-/321525251223?pt=Art_Sculpture&hash=item4adc65fc97
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Magicians are quite familiar with the effect known as The Egg Bag. Most magicians today know the Malini Egg bag, made popular by Max Malini, Charlie Miller and Johnny Thompson. There are other egg bags all of which bring about the same results with only a slight modification in method. But there is an egg bag lost to time which seems to rear it's head every hundred years or so. THE BIG EGG BAG or what I'd like to call The Fawkes Egg Bag.
Sir Isaac Fawkes was a 18th Century Magician from England. I wrote about him once before on this blog, the article can be found here.
The highlight of his act, or the centerpiece of his act was a large egg bag routine. The modern day egg bag is made from 2 squares of fabric about 8 inches by 8 inches sewn on three sides. The bag that Fawkes used was much larger. The modern day bag produces and vanishes a single egg. The Fawkes bag was more involved. Here is a description of his bag routine from The Annals of Conjuring by Sidney W. Clarke.
"He takes an empty bag, lays it upon the table and turns it several times inside out, then commands 100 Eggs out of it, and several showers of real Gold and silver coins, then the bag begins to swell, several sorts of wild fowl run out of it upon the table."
THAT is a killer piece of magic! The Malini Bag can't do that!!! The Malini bag which is the modern version, is also a stage or platform trick. By all accounts, Fawkes might have been doing this platform or possibly close-up. I'm sure other magicians copied the Fawkes Bag routine and overtime it fell out of fashion. The Fawkes Bag is revealed in the book HOCUS POCUS The Whole Art of Legerdermain by H.Dean 1727. Oddly, the method described only shows producing less than a dozen eggs, so either Fawkes version was different, or he exaggerated a little in his advertisements.
In 1786, David Leendert Bamberg was born. He was the third in the line of the Bamberg Magical Dynasty. According to Harlan Tarbell in Tarbell #5 pg 345, it was David Leendert Bamberg who invented the large type of egg bag. As Bamberg was born 50 years after Fawkes had died, I'd say that he either 'reinvented' an old favorite with a slightly new way of performing the effect. His son, David Tobias Bamberg also used the large egg bag to great effect in his shows. David Tobias Bamberg was known as Papa Bamberg and was the father of OKITO, Theodore Bamberg.
The Bamberg Egg Bag can be found in Tarbell #5. The method is interesting and after producing 15 eggs it is then followed with the production of a chicken.
Del Adelphia, known as the Cowboy Magician, also performed the large egg bag in the late 1800s. His routine is described in the new book by Mike Caveney called The Conference Illusions, which is book 2 of a set called Mike Caveney Wonders. Del Adelphia was using the Bamberg Bag. The difference in his routine he apparently only produced 8 eggs and then 2 live chickens. Mike Caveney set about to recreate the effect developed by Del Adelphia but Mike's methodology was quite different from what Del used.
I have always been intrigued with this 'large egg bag' premise. Ever since I first saw the images of Sir Isaac Fawkes in an old magic book, I have wanted to perform this piece. The Tarbell Course kept my interest cooking and then in 2010, I saw Mike Caveney present his version LIVE on the Essential Magic Conference. I say LIVE because I watched the streaming version online before it came out on DVD. IT was indeed fantastic and in addition, I was fooled by the routine.
Well, fast forward to 2014. I am now working on a version of the Large Egg Bag. Mine will hopefully have elements of the all the different versions and with any luck a completely different ending. Below is a photo of the Fawkes Bag created by a master seamstress, my MOM! She has sewn a number of things for me that are all amazing pieces. I'm hoping this particular creation lives up to the skill and artistry she used in making this incredible bag. MY version of the Fawkes Egg Bag will appear in an upcoming episode of The Magic Detective Youtube Show.